Hello again, and welcome back to our series on the efforts of One Laptop per Child, Santa Barbara! This week, we will focus on our establishment of an International Partner School! Lets hop right into it....
- Facilitating International Peer 2 Peer Partnership Program.
First off, establishing an international partner program has proved to be the most difficult component of our endeavor. Our plan for an international partner program was very open.
We knew we wanted to connect our local classroom with an international classroom, and to have the teachers on both ends establish a connection and move forward with connecting the individual students.
Our hope was that we would find an appropriate partner school, facilitate the contact, and from then on the teachers and students could use email, the online program E-Pals, or some other platform to facilitate the interaction, and we would offer all the support they needed. We would leave it up to the experience and innovative spirit of our local teacher to develop what the connections would entail as time went on, and intervene when we were wanted or needed.
Since our local class spent much of the year learning about California and Santa Barbara's history and geography, we hoped that this would be a good basis for cultural exchange, having students share their findings (through pictures, videos, writing) with their Kenyan peers, and have the Kenyan students do the same.
First, when choosing an international partner school (IPS), we had to consider several basic questions.
- Will our IPS already have laptops through OLPC, or will we be providing them?
- If we are providing XO's, how will we get them?
- Do we want an IPS with existing infrastructure (energy, wireless connection), or do we want to set it up?
- Will the IPS be English speaking or will we use a translation tool?
- Will time zones be an issue for direct communication?
- How will we seek out trusted partnerships and establish connections with these schools?
- Will we use nonprofit groups, religious groups, personal connections, university connections?
Of course, the list goes on. In the beginning, through an external personal connection of ours, we had our sights set on primary school in the Western region of Kenya. The students were well versed in English, and an institute of technology was in the process of being established locally (by Calestous Juma and others). Our local school was excited about partnering with Kenya, and the recent election of President Barack Obama set a great platform for the exploration of the region.
However, things didn't play out as anticipated. Working with international partners brings on a new set of factors and circumstances that can sometimes be beyond our control. Things such as teacher strikes, project date setbacks, and funding (we were not funding the infrastructure building, a separate entity was working on that) came up and pushed the potential date of establishing a connection into mid summer, past when our local class' school year would have ended.
Additionally, our initial strategy of supplying the XO's to an IPS has hit a small bump in the road. Since OLPC no longer does small size deployments, we are continuing to search out another route to providing XO's to an IPS.
While still striving to work with Kenya, we began to explore other options. Potential opportunities in the Philippines, South Africa, and elsewhere came and went without much success.
In the past two months, however, through another UCSB faculty member, we have begun to develop a very promising connection with an international school in Zambia. They have shown a great desire to work with us and while as of current nothing is set in stone, it seems that a connection will be forming shortly, and a program is likely to be in place by the beginning of the next US school year.
While we had a few setbacks in our international partnership program, we are still very optimistic. It was unfortunate that we did not have the chance to connect the current 3rd grade students to international peers, yet we could not and did not expect these things to happen overnight!
As I mentioned earlier, we are moving deliberately at a slower pace to ensure that everything happens at the right time and for the right reason, so that the foundation we work from will be strong and smart. This next school year (just a few months away!) will be our first full year of having XO's in our local classroom, and will be our base model for future plans.
Thanks for following, and we'll be back next week with our final post!